Twenty years is a long time. It feels like an eternity, but on this day, I remember what happened like it was yesterday. The memories are always overwhelming. I’m so grateful that my husband is here with me and we have been incredibly blessed to build a beautiful family and wonderful life in New York (and now Colorado) post 9/11.
Living in New York, many people have their stories, and so much of those are about loss. It is devastating. Each year, I can hardly bear to watch the coverage on television, remembering all the names of the people who died on that fateful day. It’s just heartbreaking.
Today marks a day twenty years ago when I was sure that my newly married husband of one year was one of the WTC victims. Standing at the base of the towers on the ground level just as the second plane hit, my husband was caught in a falling nightmare of metal, flame and human bodies. Slammed to the ground by the aftershock, he picked himself up, bruised and bleeding, and started running, helping those he could along the way. To this day, he will never tell me about the horror of what he saw around him, but I can only imagine.
He did not wait, like so many others to see what was happening, he just started walking uptown toward me he said, mercifully escaping the sudden subsequent collapse of the towers. My office at the time was at 40th and Park, where I was watching the news coverage in a state of shock with my colleagues and friends in a closed restaurant at the bottom of my building … knowing that my husband’s subway stop at WTC would be right after the first plane crash. My heart literally stopped.
Cell phones were out, no one could get through to anyone, and all I could see and hear were the sounds of utter chaos on the television. The sight of those planes crashing into the towers over and over, and the reporters trying to make sense of what was happening. I’ve never prayed harder than I did at that moment, and all I could think in my head were the words willing him to come to me, repeating over and over, “please be safe, please just get here, just come to me.”
And somehow impossibly, he did.
Somehow he heard those words and he walked over 60 blocks, not giving up, not stopping even when things appeared to be safe. He was barely out of range when the towers collapsed in a wave of concrete dust and smoke. If he had stayed, he would have been buried alive. He didn’t stop until he got to my building. I will never forget the moment I saw him standing at my office door at 99 Park Avenue hours later, looking a little worse for wear in a torn and bloody suit, but so thankfully, alive.
It is a memory I will never forget.
It is something I will always be thankful for.
I took my children back to New York a few years ago to see the memorial, and I could see them processing. They were so little then. When I explained that their dad’s name could have so easily been one etched in the stone like so many, I cried.
I have so many friends who have their own stories, some with not so happy endings. Husbands, wives, children, friends … so much loss. It is numbing. And heartbreaking. My thoughts go out to all those families who have lost loved ones, all of the heroes who fought valiantly to save lives and lost theirs in the process, those volunteers and front-line workers who are still suffering ill-effects of that poisonous air, and all the troops and everyday people who still fight to protect our freedoms every single day.
In remembrance, Nine Eleven, 2001. Those lost, we remember you, we honor you, we love you. Those who survived, like my husband, we are so incredibly blessed to have you with us, and we love you.